The introductory article on the Favourability Journey was published last month. This outlined a toolkit to move clients from a position where they are unfamiliar with your firm’s brand, to a point where they are ready to contribute to your profits.
The toolkit has four stages, each are strategies which may be required by your BD, comms and marketing staff (should you have them): Recognition, Reputation, Relationships and Revenue. In this, the second article in the series, we will explore the first stage of the journey – Recognition.
As a reminder of the Recognition stage, imagine the following scenario: You are abroad for business in an unfamiliar country. You walk into the deserted hotel bar with another partner for a drink.
You look at the bottles on the shelf. There are 40 to choose from, none are familiar. How can you select without awareness of the brands? You look closely and see ten are from a region you have heard of – you are now at the first step of the Favourability Journey: recognition.
This first phase of the journey is likely familiar for personal buying decisions, it also hopefully resonates as the start of a journey clients go on with professional services. So how to implement the Favourability Journey? The starting point is clarity on business goals which whether already codified or not should be fleshed out with a simple brand recognition audit as follows.
The question to ask is ‘how well are we known by our target market’? If time and budget allow, a client survey, ideally conducted on an unprompted and unattributed basis by a third party is an effective tool.
Niche publishers and branding consultants are often a speedy option. A digital audit around search engine terms and adverts can supplement this. There are many other options including client service assessments, but for purity, stick to unprompted sources.
With data now available on recognition of your brand amongst the chosen market – both current clients and potential targets, the aim is to consolidate this onto a map. I seek to plot clients, on the Favourability Journey to identify where they are currently in their association with the firm, to identify marketing objectives which will later inform the planning of tactics. The success of this approach relies on the definition of your market and the availability of data.
For those clients (more likely targets) at the recognition stage of the journey, what are the tactics that can be employed to grow favourability and move them to the second stage – reputation? A good starting point is to consider where people commonly look to identify service providers: search engines, directories and magazines. Below I will briefly outline each:
Google and Bing are the most common. Here appearing early in results for relevant keywords is essential. Broadly there are two options: paid and organic. Paid includes ‘AdWords’ that appear at the top (and bottom) of each Google page.
This can produce instant results but requires some investment and expertise. Organic drives appearance at the top of ‘free’ rankings and requires actions such as optimisation of your website and links from other well-reputed sites.
This takes time and marketing expertise, but many techniques are free and simple to apply. The relevant mix will depend on what media your targets consume and your resources in terms of staff, money and time.
Trade directories (e.g. industry bodies), local whitepages (e.g. Yell) and professional networking sites (e.g. LinkedIn) are used by targets at the beginning of their journey. Many of these channels offer some form of free listing (sometimes requiring association membership) and more visible paid placements (i.e. advertising) at the top of search results.
Today, many such channels are online and should be able to offer a range of marketing options. Ideally, each should provide indicative returns on investment before placement and detailed analysis of results once action is taken. Measuring results and adapting tactics over time is key to success.
Traditional print media has been either supplemented or replaced by online. This applies across industry, regional and professional publications. Driving recognition through these channels usually requires purchasing advertising or sponsoring content (the next article in this series will consider earning coverage to build reputation through articles and PR).
Print media typically charges for space based on size and placement and is priced often by circulation numbers.
Online media offers flexible marketing options (banners or squares etc) and can often be targeted only to users with relevant traits, with payment being based on results i.e. numbers of visitors or clicks. The key with both is to set targets for investment, monitor results and adapt tactics thereafter to ensure these meet objectives.
A myriad of options exists for reaching clients at the beginning of their journey of favourability towards your brand. The key here is to understand the target audience and select tactics that align with your objectives. Where you have BD/marketing staff, this should be their ‘meat and drink’. Where you are resource-light, an audit as described above can help, and external expert support may be required to help you select the most effective tactics in the optimum timeframe. As we all know, however, simple recognition of a brand does not mean revenue will flow. In the next article in this series, we will look at the second stage of the journey – reputation.
Leor Franks is CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of Augusta